November 18, 2013

Revamped offense struggles against Augustana, explodes against Lake Forest

Patience is a virtue.

At the outset, the Chicago’s 76–56 season opening loss at Augustana may appear to foreshadow a losing season.

But, considering that the Maroons (1–1) were playing one of the top teams in the Midwest Region, which put their new offense to the test, they are not panicking, especially given the manner of their 99–54 victory last night over Lake Forest (1–1).

“We knew we would kind of get off to a slow start in the season,” said second-year forward Nate Brooks. “Even with the poor shooting performance we had, the loss, we still felt pretty good coming out of it as to where the rest of the season is going to go.”

The Maroons shot 29 percent from the field compared to the Vikings’ 49.1 percent. The turning point of the game came late in the first half when the Vikings went on a 15–2 run to make the score 40–30 at the break.

“They had a couple second-chance points off of offensive rebounds; plus, they got a couple three-pointers when we missed some assignments in transition,” said fourth-year forward Sam Gage. “They really capitalized on our mistakes.”

Chicago missed the height, size, and toughness of injured third-year Ian Joyce. Augustana out-rebounded the Maroons 51–28.

“When a team exposes you like they did, you have to look at the game as a learning experience, which is what we’re doing,” Gage said. “We know that we simply have to be better on the boards and be tougher.”

Individually, fourth-year forward Charlie Hughes led the Maroons with 11 points on 4–11 shooting. Gage led all big men with five rebounds.

Now, the Maroons are looking to fix the kinks of their new offense. For a team that had previously relied heavily on running down the shot clock, passing the ball around the perimeter, and shooting the three-ball, the Maroons are trying to be more comfortable on the court in order to ensure success with their new strategy.

This year’s offense, according to Brooks, is post-oriented, relies on quickly running up and down the court, and attempts to capitalize on Chicago’s athleticism.

“When it is working, I feel like it’s great,” Brooks said. “There aren’t a lot of teams that can stop it, but just at this point, it’s getting the repetitions, getting a few games under us before we start to click really well with it.”

In the loss to Augustana, the Maroons showed glimpses of the new offense’s potential.

“A bunch of possessions, we got really easy shots. The team looked like it was in rhythm,” Brooks said. “I feel that, when it is clicking, it’s really perfect for this team. It just really suits us.”

And Brooks was right. In Chicago’s home opener last night, it pummeled Lake Forest by a score of 99–54. It’s safe to say the offense clicked.

The South Siders were led by fourth-year forward Charlie Hughes (12 points, 4 assists), second-year shooting guard John Steinberg (12 points, 5 rebounds), and third-year point guard Royce Muskeyvalley (10 points, 5 assists, 3 steals). Chicago’s new offense spread the love, as seven other players scored at least seven points.

“I feel that once the team does really get rolling, I don’t really see us dropping too many more games after [Augustana],” Brooks said. “I still feel that we can win the UAA this year.”